Former Presidents Bush, Clinton to Raise Cash for New Jersey U.S. Senate Candidates

Republican Senate candidate Tom Kean Jr. was surprised to learn his fundraiser featuring former President Bush was happening the same day as Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez's fundraiser with former President Clinton.

"Maybe they can car pool," Kean joked during a recent conversation with The Associated Press.

The dueling fundraisers were scheduled for Wednesday evening, with Clinton and Menendez to be at state Sen. Ray Lesniak's house here, while Bush and Kean were to meet supporters at the Bridgewater Marriott.

Neither side would say how much money they hope to raise, although Kean's fundraiser has already pulled in more than $275,000 in ticket sales.

Kean lags behind Menendez in campaign cash. As of June 30, Kean's total cash on hand was $2.25 million; Menendez had $7.39 million. Those are the latest figures available.

With the race still very close in recent polls, Kean and Menendez will need a lot more cash for the remainder of the campaign to buy ads in the very expensive New York and Philadelphia media markets, said Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute,

"The purpose of a presidential visit or visit of a celebrity is to raise funds," Richards said. "They are not going to change votes in New Jersey."

Clinton may help bolster Democrats' enthusiasm for Menendez's lackluster poll results, and the elder Bush brings a "warmer and fuzzier feeling to voters" than his son, who has high disapproval ratings here, Richards added.

The Clinton-Menendez event was to be hosted by Lesniak, a major Democratic Party fundraiser. Guests paid $1,000 to attend the cocktail reception and $10,000 for a VIP reception.

Tickets to the Bush-Kean event were $5,000 for a picture with the former president and $500 for general admission.

Menendez anticipates having fellow Democratic senators Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Barack Obama of Illinois at fundraisers for him in the coming weeks, while Kean expects to see Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Menendez, 52, was appointed to the Senate in January by Gov. Jon Corzine to serve out the remaining year of his term. Menendez served in Congress for 14 years.

Kean already has had fundraisers hosted by Vice President Dick Cheney and First Lady Laura Bush. He has said President Bush has an open invitation to come to New Jersey. Kean, a state senator, turned 38 on Tuesday. He is the son of former Gov. Thomas Kean.